The prison crisis is creating an urgent demand to expand accommodation that is giving rise to innovations in building techniques. The Ministry of Justice, working with steel framed building specialist Britspace, has developed a speedily erected modular cell building that is fabricated off-site. Key components from Guttermaster include concealed gutters, deeply overhanging fascias to eaves and verges, heavy-duty steel ceilings and un-climbable rainwater down pipes.

A key security objective is to prevent prisoners accessing the roof. The Guttermaster anti-climb rainwater pipe fits flush to the wall, has tamper proof concealed fixings and an interlocking design for greater strength. The pipe has a perfectly clean line with no exposed brackets, jointed couplings or anything to give support or purchase to a climber. These work with the roof overhangs to create a major deterrent and obstacle to climbing.

Anti-climb Rainwater Down Pipe
To prevent roof access from inside the building Guttermaster have supplied heavy duty steel ceilings. These are made from three-metre long 650mm wide steel planks that are quick and easy to install. They use an interlocking Z profile fitting to secure the panels and to hide the fixing to prevent tampering. Fabricated from heavy gauge three-millimetre galvanised mild steel, precision fabricated panels avoid even the smallest gap so that nothing can be inserted between them to apply leverage. They are pre-finished with a long-life, zero maintenance polyester coating.

Guttermaster has worked closely with roofing and cladding contractors Deighton South and Midlands Ltd (DSM) and roof structures specialist Dibsa Structures Ltd. To speed on-site construction DSM has integrated the Guttermaster soakers, that provide a secure and gas tight anchorage for the smoke ducts in the ceiling, into pre-fabricated Dibsa cassettes along with the Ward composite roofing panels. This allowed large sections of roof to be installed in a single operation to make the building totally weatherproof in days rather than weeks.

The first prison block to be handed over was a 60 cell two-storey block at Kirklevington Prison near Yarm. A similar block at Lowestoft has been handed over and another at Rochester is close to completion with other locations to follow. The modular system, designated A9, will have en-suite cells that provide space and modern amenities. High levels of insulation are used in the building to maintain stable winter and summer temperature and minimise the lifetime heating costs – reducing the overall carbon footprint. Durable long-life and low maintenance surfaces are used throughout to resist ageing and vandalism.

Modern methods of construction enabled Wates Plc, the main contractor, to compress the on-site construction period for the Kirklevington Prison to just seven weeks. With growing pressure to expand capacity, a need to replace Victorian prisons, upgrade conditions and maintain high security, it is expected that the programme will accelerate further.